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Helix Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A writer wakes from a night of heavy drinking to find his head is throbbing. The discordant sounds of his neighbor practicing the violin add to his discomfort as he lies contemplating the intensely blue sky and thinking of his girlfriend. The blue expanse somehow reminds him of her peculiar habit of blinking when she is searching for a word. This small detail somehow sums up his girlfriend’s personality for him, and he fears that this understanding of her dooms their relationship. With other women, knowing them too well has destroyed his feelings for them.

His girlfriend has arranged for them to meet that evening at their favorite café after it closes. Sensing that she wants to tell him something important, perhaps that she wants to end their relationship, the young man telephones her, trying to cancel, but she does not answer, so he decides to keep their date. At the café, they enter with a key borrowed from the manager. The young man wants the lights turned on, but she prefers the darkness; she brings them apple juice, but he wants beer. She tells him of a seminar a friend of hers plans to attend. The seminar teaches people how to rid their minds of bad memories. She likes the idea, for it gives people the freedom to choose what to think about, but he thinks the idea too radical and asks her not to go. She replies that she will go but will not forget the memories they have accumulated together. To forget them, she says, would be like dying. This reassurance raises his spirits.

They leave the café, and as his girlfriend describes some of the memories that remind her of him, they hear an explosion, and a flash of light erupts from a nearby building. Glass shards rain down on them as people hurry into the street. The turmoil does not frighten her; she is strangely cheered, for the flash of light reminds her of fireworks. She hopes that the blast has not injured anyone and enjoys its beauty. Her response makes the young man realize that although they are very different from each other and think very differently, they can still share their love. The night sky and this revelation also make him see that they represent all couples and are part of a universal continuum. Their souls entwine, he finally realizes, like the helix spiraling in universal time and space.